Building Positive Memories

Project Play works with displaced children in Northern France. We are a group of volunteer teachers and playworkers who believe in the power of play. We provide children with safe spaces to play, learn and be themselves.

Every child has the right to a childhood.

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Whether £5 or £50, every donation goes towards empowering children through play.

The Context

These children should be in school. Instead they live in unsafe and unstable environments, sleeping outside in makeshift camps. By the time they reach Northern France, they have survived long and dangerous journeys, across continents, borders and oceans. Living in camps, they are extremely vulnerable to grooming, neglect, exploitation and abuse. They face excessive police violence and regular evictions of their living spaces, including confiscation of tents and personal possessions. Without structure, formal education or a stable home, the all-round development of these children is severely disrupted.

Our Impact

Project Play was created to provide displaced children with necessary safe spaces and the chance to play, learn and imagine. Our team of dedicated volunteers currently reaches over 120 children and delivers six play sessions each week. Promoting resilience, self-worth and a strong identity is at the core of our mission. Our sessions target core developmental skills for children aged 1-18 using a combination of group games, sports, music, creative tasks and formal learning. The children are given a chance to grow their understanding of who they are, what they enjoy and what they can bring to the world. We target skills that are age specific, bearing in mind that many of these children have large gaps in their development. For this reason, we tailor our activities to the individual needs of each child, in order to find the most effective outlet for them. We work alongside our partners Refugee Women’s Centre to provide holistic care for families and offer parents some much needed respite.

The Power of Play

Play helps young people become strong and independent individuals. Through play, children practice the skills for later life; they learn to interact and communicate, to express their emotions, to explore their creativity and to grow their physical abilities. Play helps them figure out what they like and don’t like and what they are good at. With a strong sense of identity and self-belief, children are far more resilient to trauma and adversity. Playing with others teaches children to relate to those around them, to understand themselves and the impact of their actions, as well as how other people’s actions make them feel. The children we work with need a space where they can build this social and emotional awareness, to help them cultivate healthy relationships and process and respond to distress. Imaginative and pretend play lets children try out different roles, reenact real-life scenarios and process fears and anxieties. Through imaginative play, children are offered the space to work through traumatic events in their lives, by re-enacting and reframing these events in play.

Our Story

The idea for Project Play was formed in August 2018, when volunteers working in Calais realised there was no services supporting children and their wellbeing. Watch the video to find out more about why Project Play was founded and the impact it has had so far.